This paper discusses arguments and political initiatives that the Swedish Medical Association (Sveriges Läkarförbund, SLF) took in attempts to curtail the immigration of foreign-educated physicians to Sweden in the first decades after the end of world war two. During the inter-war period, a shortage of positions for especially newly educated ... (Show more)
This paper discusses arguments and political initiatives that the Swedish Medical Association (Sveriges Läkarförbund, SLF) took in attempts to curtail the immigration of foreign-educated physicians to Sweden in the first decades after the end of world war two. During the inter-war period, a shortage of positions for especially newly educated physicians had made SLF into a very protectionist organization that regularly questioned the ability of foreign-educated physicians of treating Swedish patients. Several of their leaders were also involved in or sympathetic towards right-wing political and pro-German organizations.
The early post-war period heralded a period of rapid changes within both the political landscape in general and health care policies in particular. The ruling Social Democratic Party wanted to reform the health care sector, expand the number of public hospitals and healthcare clinics, and make health care assessable for all with no or limited fees upfront. This entailed a rapid expansion of the number of physicians, through increasing the number of medical students as well as simplifying the process that would enable foreign-educated physicians to come and practice in Sweden.
The leadership within the SLF was against all of this. Neither the “socialization” of healthcare, the “proletarianization” of the medical profession nor the “import” of foreigners for such work was compatible with SLF:s professional project at the time. For them, a physician was a small intellectual and cultural elite of private, independent highly educated professionals. They fought tooth and nail to try to argue against these developments. In the end, they lost them all.
In this paper, I will primarily focus on their resistance to foreign-educated physicians. The material used has been collected from the archives of SLF, articles from journals written for and by Swedish physicians, and archive material from some reports and inquiries within the government and the Swedish Medical Board (Medicinalstyrelsen) during the period circa 1945-1960.
I argue that SLF had developed a nationalist professional strategy that included strong social closures against foreign-educated physicians during the interwar period. This strategy was well adapted to the interwar and war period but would soon show to be unsuitably adapted to the post-war period. SLF:s demands and arguments often fell on deaf ears in government, the medical board, or in public debate in general. During most of the 1950s SLF only made small concessions to the new political landscape. Not until the leadership that hade came to eminence within the medal organization during the interwar period was replaced with a younger generation of physicians was a more coherent policy change visible.
The paper thus argues that professional, as well as other employee or trade union organizations, need to adapt to stay relevant and have an influence on policy but that this adaption at times can be slow and painful. (Show less)